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Charles Dickens Collection > Hard Times - NO spoilers

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message 1: by Pink (new)

Pink | 6556 comments This is our Old School Classic Group Read for February 2017.

Please use this thread for general, spoiler free discussion of Hard Times by Charles Dickens

If you wish to discuss the plot in more detail, then please use the spoiler thread here

If you would like a free copy of the book, here are some links for online and audio versions:

Project Gutenberg

Amazon UK I cannot find a free copy, but there are plenty available from 99p

Amazon.com Again, no free editions that I can find, but lots of cheap options

Librivox There are three editions available - collaborative, solo and dramatic performance.

Happy reading!


message 2: by Pink (new)

Pink | 6556 comments Are you joining us for some Dickens?

I do NOT consider myself a Dickens fan, but I have only read A Christmas Carol, so that's probably unfair. Since Hard Times is his shortest completed novel, I might give it a try. Who's with me?


message 3: by Bat-Cat (new)

Bat-Cat | 1300 comments Pink wrote: "Are you joining us for some Dickens?

I do NOT consider myself a Dickens fan, but I have only read A Christmas Carol, so that's probably unfair. Since Hard Times is his shortest comple..."


Hi Pink. I love Dickens! I've read Great Expectations (twice), David Copperfield (twice), Bleak House and Oliver Twist, and loved them all. I would really like to join in on this read but am not sure I can squeeze it in. I will try though. ;-)


message 4: by Loretta (new)

Loretta | 2668 comments Pink wrote: "Are you joining us for some Dickens?

I do NOT consider myself a Dickens fan, but I have only read A Christmas Carol, so that's probably unfair. Since Hard Times is his shortest comple..."


I'm in Pink! I already made a comment on the spoilers thread. I'm almost finished with the book. :)


message 5: by Pink (new)

Pink | 6556 comments Bat-Cat, I'm glad to hear you're a fan. I'll have to wait and see if Dickens proves me wrong! How would you compare this one to his other books? one of the best? worst? somewhere in the middle?

Loretta, wow, you're off to a head start! I might take a peek at the spoiler thread, but I should probably hold off for now!


message 6: by Loretta (new)

Loretta | 2668 comments Pink wrote: "Bat-Cat, I'm glad to hear you're a fan. I'll have to wait and see if Dickens proves me wrong! How would you compare this one to his other books? one of the best? worst? somewhere in the middle?

Lo..."


I've only read two books by Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, which I loved and The Life of Our Lord: Written for His Children During the Years 1846 to 1849 which was also very good. Since I haven't read a lot of Dickens, I can't say how this book compares or whether it's his best or worse. You should just give it a go Pink, that's what I'm doing! :)


message 7: by Pink (new)

Pink | 6556 comments Yes I'm going to Loretta, I figure if I don't join in for his shortest book when it's a group read, then I probably never will. I'm hoping to be pleasantly surprised.


message 8: by Loretta (new)

Loretta | 2668 comments Pink wrote: "Yes I'm going to Loretta, I figure if I don't join in for his shortest book when it's a group read, then I probably never will. I'm hoping to be pleasantly surprised."

That's the spirit Pink! :)


message 9: by Milena (new)

Milena | 257 comments Pink wrote: "Are you joining us for some Dickens?

I do NOT consider myself a Dickens fan, but I have only read A Christmas Carol, so that's probably unfair. Since Hard Times is his shortest comple..."


I'm in Pink. I'm starting it tomorrow. I've got a free afternoon: a new book and a good cup of tea. I'm looking forward to it.


message 10: by Loretta (new)

Loretta | 2668 comments Milena wrote: "Pink wrote: "Are you joining us for some Dickens?

I do NOT consider myself a Dickens fan, but I have only read A Christmas Carol, so that's probably unfair. Since Hard Times is his sh..."


That sounds lovely Milena! :)


message 11: by Trudy (new)

Trudy Brasure | 34 comments I've been really into Victorian literature these past few years, so I've read a few Dickens (Bleak House, Little Dorrit, Great Expectations).

He's not my favorite Victorian author, but I'm very interested to read Hard Times because it parallels North and South by Gaskell, who IS my favorite Victorian author.

I actually had started reading the introduction to Hard Times before I discovered the group was going to read it this month. Great coincedence!


message 12: by Milena (new)

Milena | 257 comments Loretta wrote: "That sounds lovely Milena! :)"

It is, Loretta. And discussing the book with the group is becoming part of the pleasure. :)


message 13: by Melanti (new)

Melanti | 2386 comments Pink wrote: "I do NOT consider myself a Dickens fan, but I have only read A Christmas Carol, so that's probably unfair. Since Hard Times is his shortest completed novel, I might give it a try. Who's with me?..."

I'm not a Dickens fan but you make it sound so reasonable to join in!


message 14: by Piyangie (new)

Piyangie | 397 comments I read Hard Times last December. Looking forward for the discussion with you all.


message 15: by Loretta (new)

Loretta | 2668 comments Milena wrote: "Loretta wrote: "That sounds lovely Milena! :)"

It is, Loretta. And discussing the book with the group is becoming part of the pleasure. :)"


I agree Milena! :)


message 16: by Pamela (new)

Pamela Shropshire (pswap57) | 48 comments I love Dickens and I will be reading Hard Times, but I won't be starting it just yet. I want to finish The Count of Monte Cristo first.


message 17: by Bat-Cat (new)

Bat-Cat | 1300 comments Pink wrote: "Bat-Cat, I'm glad to hear you're a fan. I'll have to wait and see if Dickens proves me wrong! How would you compare this one to his other books? one of the best? worst? somewhere in the middle?

Lo..."


Pink, I haven't read this one yet so I can't compare it to his others but my favorites so far are Great Expectations, David Copperfield and Bleak House (not in any particular order).

Since there are so many joining in I may really have to squeeze it in. We shall see. ;-)


message 18: by Pink (new)

Pink | 6556 comments Trudy, I was a big fan of North and South, so comparing it to this will be another good reason to give it a read. Thanks for mentioning :)


message 19: by Fred (new)

Fred | 31 comments Out of all the Dickens books, I have only read A Christmas Carol so I will probably start this one soon now. Will post my thoughts here! ;)


message 20: by Fred (new)

Fred | 31 comments Looking forward to discussing it with you all!


message 21: by Milena (new)

Milena | 257 comments Fred wrote: "Looking forward to discussing it with you all!"

I'm reading it too. I'm going a bit slowly but I like it so far.


message 22: by Laurie (new)

Laurie | 1561 comments For those of you who have only read A Christmas Carol, please don't make Hard Times your yardstick for Dickens's novels. It isn't bad by any means, but of the seven of his that I have read I would put it at the bottom. The story itself is less interesting and the characters didn't engage me as they did in Bleak House or Great Expectations. Definitely read it but try some of the others as well to give him a fair shot.


message 23: by Fred (new)

Fred | 31 comments Yes I was getting a "not-as-good-as-others" vibe! But I still think it's really good. :)


message 24: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen | 3537 comments From what I remember from reading it a few years ago, I found this to be the least sentimental of the Dickens novels I've read, and the characters were scaled down compared to some of his others. Still, the characters here are unique and interesting, and I loved the story.


message 25: by Bobbie (new)

Bobbie | 97 comments I am a great Dickens fan but have not read this one, so glad to get the opportunity to read it with a group. My favorites are Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, and Our Mutual Friend, although I really like The Pickwick Papers as well.


message 26: by Nente (new)

Nente | 772 comments Started this yesterday, are there many spoilers over in another thread? Should I look there only after I read the whole?
As for comparisons with other Dickenses, I think it comes closest to The Old Curiosity Shop in atmosphere (and even has one important plot point in common). I loved that one because it was one of the first I read, but now Great Expectations and Bleak House are firmly at the top.


message 27: by Pink (last edited Feb 06, 2017 03:32AM) (new)

Pink | 6556 comments There will be some spoilers in the other thread (although there's nothing at the moment), so it's up to you if you decide to look before you're finished with the book :)


message 28: by Fred (new)

Fred | 31 comments I gave this book 1 star unfortunately. :( a real change from A Christmas Carol! That's a real shock!


message 29: by Fred (new)

Fred | 31 comments https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
My review has gone up. I really didn't like this book sadly. :(


message 30: by Pink (new)

Pink | 6556 comments Oh that's a shame Fred, but at least you gave it a try!


message 31: by Amy (new)

Amy Eckert | 113 comments I was assigned this novel in college, and I never made it through the entire thing, so now I want to read it all. I LOVED Oliver Twist, even during some of the slower parts, and Great Expectations and A Christmas Carol are great. I have tried to get into Bleak House, but always can't get into it.


message 32: by Bobbie (new)

Bobbie | 97 comments Claire wrote: "I've almost finished this one now. Although I'm a big fan of Dickens, this is definitely not one of best works. I'm rather enjoying reading it, but I can't imagine that the story or the characters ..."

I agree Claire, not my favorite Dickens novel but I am enjoying it now that I am almost to the end. It has been slow reading for me but not as bad as I expected at first.


message 33: by Paula W (new)

Paula W | 554 comments I am listening to the audiobook, and it is the same narrator that read The Remains of the Day. I am enjoying it a lot so far.


message 34: by Robin P (last edited Feb 14, 2017 01:37PM) (new)

Robin P | 65 comments Laurie wrote: "For those of you who have only read A Christmas Carol, please don't make Hard Times your yardstick for Dickens's novels. It isn't bad by any means, but of the seven of his that I have read I would ..."

That is exactly what I think too. Another group i am in on GR read all of Dickens over a period of time and this is my least favorite. Both the characters and the plot are thin. There's little humor, more gross exaggeration and over-the-top sentimentality. I think the best books for a non-Dickens reader to start with are David Copperfield and Great Expectations.


message 35: by [deleted user] (new)

I tried. I tried hard, but I had to throw in the towel. Never read Dickens before but my understanding is that it is not his best work, so won't totally throw in the towel on him.

I also thought it was over-exaggerated and that was too much for me.


message 36: by Loretta (new)

Loretta | 2668 comments Pam wrote: "I tried. I tried hard, but I had to throw in the towel. Never read Dickens before but my understanding is that it is not his best work, so won't totally throw in the towel on him.

I also thought ..."


Pam, don't beat yourself up. I read it but didn't enjoy it as much as A Christmas Carol. :)


message 37: by Robin P (new)

Robin P | 65 comments Dickens = exaggeration. But often there are truths underneath it.


message 38: by Connie (new)

Connie D | 53 comments I'm just partway through; enjoying the characters and some of the phrasing so well, but not loving other aspects, especially Mr. Gradgrind and his attitudes about education.


message 39: by Rick (new)

Rick Haag | 2 comments Hi Pink,

As a Brit Lit guy, I have read much of the great works from the Georgian, Regency, Victorian, and Edwardian periods. This includes most of Dickens’s work. My favorites are: Little Dorrit, Bleak House, and Hard Times. He wrote so much about the social issues (and ills) of his time, albeit a little winded and overly descriptive; nevertheless, I find his work to be of monumental importance to English Literature. The writers he influenced are countless.

I am in the minority among most readers when I proclaim Hard Times to be possibly his best. However, I find it encapsulated his ideas concerning society, and the rapid changes going on during the time, better and more concisely than any of his other texts.

I like this group, as it enticed me to give it another read. Hard Times delivers the ideological, societal, and moral issues of the day in a unique, somewhat hyperbolic way, driven by those unforgettable Dickens characters.

--Rick Haag


message 40: by Pink (last edited Feb 20, 2017 08:38AM) (new)

Pink | 6556 comments Yes I think you are in the minority in liking Hard Times, people don't seem to rate it so highly. I often hear that Bleak House is one of his best, so no surprise there. I still haven't started this book, I'm in two minds about it, but I do like books about social commentary and this era, so I really should try it for myself.


message 41: by Piyangie (last edited Feb 20, 2017 10:38AM) (new)

Piyangie | 397 comments I liked Hard Times too. I have read Dickens's Christmas books, David Copperfield, Great Expectations and Oliver Twist and I found Hard Times quite different from them. I think it was due to the social commentaries embodied in the book as well as its being set up against an industrial backdrop.
You should try it Pink.
As for Bleak House, I hear it is to be his masterpiece. I would like to try that myself.


message 42: by Pink (new)

Pink | 6556 comments Okay okay, I'm going to start Hard Times, wish me luck!


message 43: by Loretta (new)

Loretta | 2668 comments Pink wrote: "Okay okay, I'm going to start Hard Times, wish me luck!"

Best of luck Pink!!!! :)


message 44: by Connie (last edited Feb 20, 2017 02:20PM) (new)

Connie D | 53 comments As a teacher, I'm especially interested (in the beginning of the book anyway) about Dickens' views on education and the educational attitudes of the time. I mostly only know about typical education of the period from his books, but the attitudes in Hard Times seem even stronger. Basically: erase any imagination from your soul, child!

Does anyone know about Dickens' educational experiences and whether he had people (critics or educators) who discouraged him from being fanciful, thinking outside the box, telling stories, etc.?


message 45: by Bobbie (new)

Bobbie | 97 comments That's a good question, Connie. My question is, Was that method of teaching really used in that day and time? Seems really cruel.


message 46: by Connie (new)

Connie D | 53 comments Yes, Bobbie. That was another part of my question. Also, were most of Dickens' schoolrooms typical or were they exaggerated stereotypes?


message 47: by Pink (last edited Feb 23, 2017 01:56AM) (new)

Pink | 6556 comments I believe he was criticised for giving an unrealistic representation of teaching practices. Although he wrote it this way, to give his own critical opinion of education at the time. There are several essays and websites about Dickens and education, these two are quite interesting.

http://dickens.port.ac.uk/education/
http://omf.ucsc.edu/london-1865/schoo...

For me, the whole book reads like a social commentary and it never really gets into the characters of the novel. They feel much like a tool for Dickens to get his point across. I have about 25% left to read, but I'm not enjoying it very much at all.


message 48: by Rick (new)

Rick Haag | 2 comments As a writer and educator I see what Dickens was attempting to accomplish. Charles Dickens used, as I touched upon previously, hyperbole and exaggerated characters/situations to make his social and ideological points. Hard Times simply follows his typical methodology. What is strikingly different, is the fact that Hard Times is much more concise and focuses on fewer characters than many of his other texts. We are void of the plethora of minute and often distracting descriptive details that was at least for me, a weakness in his writing. Sometimes I feel he told too much and when that occurs it takes some of the reader’s ownership of the text.

Furthermore, it has been said by readers and critics the characters from Hard Times are more superficial and the plot/theme is one-dimensional; I believe that was his intention. In crafting the novel he still created memorable names in typical Dickensian fashion—names that not only stick, but also are often somehow reflective of their owners’ personalities. This allows the reader to focus on the single thread in Hard Times as opposed to multiple threads in something like Bleak House.

I believe the trite, sometimes repetitious, and maybe predictable nature of his storyline was also intentional. As an avid Dickens reader I found this refreshing and demonstrative of his range as a writer. As I stated before, this is not a typical Dickens novel. However, I think it gets to the heart of many societal issues faster and more directly than most of his other books, which in this case is what I think he intended.


message 49: by Pink (last edited Feb 23, 2017 09:34AM) (new)

Pink | 6556 comments Some of the time, when he's clearly being hyperbolic or ironic, I appreciate what he's doing to prove a point. As a narrative about this period, I find myself wishing it was an essay instead of a novel. For me, it's paling in comparison to North and South, which tackled the same topics but within an engaging fiction.

I'm still glad that I decided to read this, as the only other thing I've read by Dickens is A Christmas Carol and this is completely different. It will be interesting to see what I think of one of his more typical novels in the future. I have Great Expectations on my shelf and on audiobook, so I might try that in the not too distant future. The one I'm really looking forward to is Bleak House as I hear it constantly praised as one of his best works.


message 50: by Robin P (last edited Feb 23, 2017 07:17PM) (new)

Robin P | 65 comments As far as Dickens sometimes being less concise, for some of his books, he knew he needed to produce x number of pages so he just kept writing whether it added value to the book or not. (not a complaint - I'm a big fan of Dickens and recently finished reading all his novels with another GR group.)


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